A political pressure group, Building Blocks for Peace Foundation (BBFORPEAC), has cautioned Nigerian youths against violence, ethnic and religious bigotry, ahead of 2023 general election.
Mr Rafui Lawal, the Executive Director, BBFORPEACE Foundation said this at a news conference with the theme `Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Enhancing Youth Political Participation for a Peaceful and Inclusive Society” in Abuja on Thursday.
Lawal said that Nigerian election was usually marred with violence due to the win-at-all-cost syndrome.
“At the centre of these violent conflicts are young men and women who make up about 60 per cent of all the eligible voters and the total country’s population.
“More so, young people’s exclusion from decision making and peace processes, and the lack of adequate conflict management and mediation skills especially among youth contributions to violence.
“The meaningful participation of young people in all cycles of the electoral process is crucial for any democratic development.
“As the 2023 elections draw close, we will like to remind young people that their active and non-violent participation is critical for Nigeria’s socio-economic and political reconfiguration and development,” he said.
Lawal added:“Young people are central to peace and security in Nigeria.
“We must convert our demographic dividends into peace dividends.’’
He called on Nigerian youth to shun hate speech and sharing of unverified information.
Lawal advised youths to ensure that they verify all information and messages through simple Google search and fact checking tools online before sharing.
He said that data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has shown that youths aged between 18 and 34 years constitute 78.7 per cent of 12.2 million new registrants.
He said that this clearly indicated that youths would have a potential impact on the 2023 elections ,so it was time to use that strength to present a formidable youth agenda to the political gladiators.
He said that young people should peacefully mobilise their peers across the country to vote for the candidates of their choice across all levels.
“As youths, we have the biggest advantage by far to effectively use technology to promote a peaceful election.
“We are exposed to many social media platforms that we can use to advocate for peace and social cohesion before, during and after elections.
“We must say no to hate speech and divisive contents online and offline,” he said.
Lawal said that the unnecessary and unhealthy enmity among political parties, party gladiators and supporters has huge implications for the 2023 election and beyond.
He called on parties to uphold the provisions of the Electoral Act and be tolerant of one another and stop attacking each other’s rallies.
Lawal said the BBFORPEACE Foundation recommended that the police should work with other security agencies to ensure that the country was safe before, during and after election.
He added that the police has the responsibility of protecting the electorate, INEC personnel and materials throughout the electoral period as contained in its operations documents.
He called on the Federal and State Governments to jointly review the nations peace and security strategies with the current security dynamics and trends to enhance preparation for the conduct of credible election across Nigeria.
He called for nation-wide sensitisation on civic education on voting processes and non-violence across Nigeria.
He called on religious leaders to avoid preaching hatred and messages of division on their platforms and urged them to encourage their adherents to conduct themselves peacefully.
Lawal said there was need to strengthen the judiciary to independently work efficiently to address all grievances in the 2023 election without fear or favour.
He said that there was need to produce the Electoral Act in local languages and make it available at no cost to citizens.
Lawal said that the recruiting grounds for thugs, whether located in turfs of the almajiri or the area boys, should be targeted for psychotherapy and re-orientation.
He called for capacity building for young people on mediation and dialogue across the country.